As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2015, marking what would have been the civil rights giant’s 86th birthday, we begin a year of momentous civil rights anniversaries. Sixty years ago Martin Luther King, Jr. — then a young pastor just starting out — led the watershed Montgomery Bus Boycott. The first modern American nonviolent protest, the 13-month-long boycott successfully ended segregation on buses and ignited the civil rights movement.
Ten years later, in 1965, Dr. King stood beside President Johnson as he signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA), one of the most important and effective pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed. The VRA was the culmination of years of tireless — and fearless — work by Dr. King and his allies, from the bus boycott, to the March on Washington, to the brutal day in Selma that would become known as Bloody Sunday.
Dr. King’s work helped not only to end legal segregation in the United States and to secure the right to vote for millions of Americans, but it surely bent the arc of the moral universe sharply towards justice.
Sixty years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott and fifty years after Bloody Sunday and the passage of the VRA, however, the work that Dr. King started is far from over. In 2013 the Supreme Court struck down key parts of the VRA, essentially gutting the heart of the legislation. Today voter ID requirements and other unjustified legislative restrictions on voting threaten to disenfranchise minorities once more.
Protests in Ferguson, New York, and across the country remind us that, despite our progress, racism still plagues our society. And although legal segregation and Jim Crow laws are dead, today students of color are disproportionately funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline, immigrants struggle for inclusion in the American Dream, most states lack laws explicitly protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, and every day, students in school become targets of bullying or cyberbullying because they appear different.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day and remember the civil rights leader who brought us so far, let us reflect not only on the progress we have made, but also the work that remains ahead. Take a moment to Imagine a World Without Hate. And let us rededicate ourselves to continuing the work that Dr. King dreamed about sixty years ago.
Learn About the Issues
- Read More About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Protecting Voting Rights
- Advocating for Immigration Reform
- Safeguarding Religious Freedom and the Separation of Church and State
- Expanding LGBT Rights and Marriage Equality
- Combating Hate
- Ending Bullying and Cyberbullying
- Closing the Achievement Gap in Education
- Martin Luther King, Jr. and Civil Rights: Relevancy for Today
- Beyond the Dream: Teaching King in Context
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964: 7 Ways to Commemorate the Anniversary
- Imagine a World Without Hate: Educators Guide
- Brown v. Board of Education: 60 Years Later, the Legacy Unfulfilled
- What Is The Dream Act and Who Are the Dreamers? (PDF)
- Teaching About Ferguson and Beyond